Cher Public

Don Carlos: more or less

La Scala opens as always on December 7th celebrating Sant’Ambrogio, Milan’s patron saint of music, and “Trove Thursday” presents an all-star five-act Don Carlo from forty years ago tonight: Claudio Abbado conducting Mirella Freni, Elena Obraztsova, José Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Yevgeni Nesterenko. Since it’s my favorite Verdi opera I serve up a double-scoop with Don Carlos featuring an impressive all-Francophone cast of Suzanne Sarroca, Lyne Dourian, Georges Liccioni, Matteo Manuguerra, Jacques Mars and Marc Vento

I first learned Don Carlo from a “pirate” conducted by Herbert von Karajan from the Salzburg Festival and had no idea how chopped up it was—no second verses for the Veil Song nor Rodrigo’s imprecation nor Elisabetta’s farewell. Big chunks were sliced out of both Elisabetta-Carlo duets and even “Tu che le vanita” had sections removed.

When I heard this Abbado performance not long after it was broadcast I was astounded at all the “new” music: not only the complete Fontainebleau act but also the scene in which Elisabetta and Eboli exchange cloaks and the magnificent mourning duet for Carlo and Filippo after Rodrigo’s assassination. There’s also the extended finale with its mysterious quiet ending. All in all, it was a revelation.

Some of these passages have become more commonly performed since this 1977 production; all as well as the expanded riot scene at the end of the fourth act were included in the recent, much-discussed Don Carlos at the Paris Opéra. Since many have expressed a preference for the original language, to supplement the wonderful Abbado performance I’m also including a version in French sung by singers utterly at home in the language, not something one might have said about the Paris cast.

The difference between “international” French and truly idiomatic French may surprise some in this music. While this broadcast from French Radio is also in five acts it doesn’t include a lot of restored music heard at La Scala a decade later.

Verdi: Don Carlo
Teatro alla Scala
7 December 1977

Mirella Freni: Elisabetta
Elena Obraztsova: Eboli
Stefania Malagù: Tebaldo
José Carreras: Don Carlo
Piero Cappuccilli: Rodrigo
Nicolai Ghiaurov: Filippo II
Evgenij Nesterenko: Il Grande Inquisitor
Luigi Roni: Un Frate

Conductor: Claudio Abbado

Verdi: Don Carlos
French Radio ORTF 1967 Broadcast

Suzanne Sarroca: Elisabeth
Lyne Dourian: Eboli
Mirelle Martin: Thibault
Georges Liccioni: Carlos
Matteo Manuguerra: Rodrique
Jacques Mars: Philippe II
Marc Vento: Inquisitor
Pierre Thau: Monk

Conductor: Pierre-Michel Lecomte

Both Don Carlo and Don Carlos can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on their audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

More than 100 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.

  • Camille

    Don Carlo(s) was also George Jellinek’s favorite Verdi opera, and it was upon reading this fact whereupon I finally dredged up the courage to own up that it was also mine, displacing that former favorite Otello from top of my list. There it has stayed for a good twenty years now.

    I am most grateful of all for this French version as the only one I’ve been slightly aware of and had misgivings as to the cast would be the Opera Rara recording. For over ten years I’ve hesitated about buying it—watching the price rise from $60+ to now over $100+—whilst dithering over it, sigh. As I enjoy both Sarroca and Mars, and am always intending to know Manuguerra better, I shall happily settle for this trésor instead!
    Very much obliged.

    • Porgy Amor

      the only one I’ve been slightly aware of and had misgivings as to the cast would be the Opera Rara recording

      There was also the live Vienna State Opera recording on Orfeo (from 2004), but you would have misgivings about that cast too. Or, I should say, anyone should. Some of the singing is adequate (not Nadja Michael’s Eboli or Bo Skovhus’s Rodrigue, both far less), but Ramón Vargas in the title role is the only special voice, the only you hear and think, “Yeah, that belongs in a new production at an important theater.” And even he’s on the light side for it, and not getting along smashingly with the language he’s singing.

      • Camille

        I sat through Nada’s Lady Mac. That kind of punishment can be endured once in a lifetime, and only once.

        Ramón Vargas was a singer I thought of very highly and was capable of fine performances. His Don Ottavio, in particular, and a late nineties Edgardo truly stand out in my memory. His last attempts at Don Carlo here were rather pale in comparison and, on the right day, he may have handled it all right but I think Don Carlo(s), and based upon recently having looked at the score for this role, is a really heavy part. The force and lungs old Jonas gave us showed what is needed, as perhaps Mr Tucker did in olden days. Mr Vargas was a little too on the fine edge of things, although he made it work.

        Oh god. Now I remember the fire on stage with him and Frittoli on one of those nights when poor Maestro Maazel showed he was no longer really with it anymore and the ritornello of the theme dragged on funereal fashion until the end of time, it seemed. As bad a night at the opera as that was--NOTHING topped putting up with that Lady Mac charade. Vergogna!

    • fletcher

      Camille, I have eight (!) Carloses now in French -- one under Charles Bruck with Vanzo (!), this Le Conte, the BBC Matheson with Turp and Tremblay, Abbado’s famous set with Domingo, the Pappano with Alagna and Mattila, and then finally three recent documents from Vienna (de Billy), Houston (Summers, with Jovanovich and Goerke), and the new Paris with Kaufmann. This one is a real treasure -- especially the end of Act IV with Manuguerra and Liccioni.

      • Camille

        Oh my goodness gracious me, my lord you are like me, for I am almost as gung-ho when I love something. The one which interests me the most is the one with Vanzo, whom I prize as a singer. The Tremblay and Turp (I just luv their names!) one is that which I’ve danced around for years now and can never make my mind up about. At least Opera Rara has deluxe accompanying booklets.

        I’m glad to hear you think so well of this particular pirate version and am licking my chops in glee.

        By the way, fletcher, what do you think of the Met/Levine Benvenuto Cellini? I was just listening to the final half last week, before this huge scandale, and don’t know what it is I don’t like about it but I just don’t. And frankly, I can kind of see, notwithstanding my great amour for Hector, why he was banned from the opera house after that Roman carnaval.

        I still haven’t returned my Thaïs score to Library but instead of listening to it I’m afraid I’ve gone back to Le Cid, which I lurve! Thaïs, I’ve decided that I liked Andrée Esposito the best of the three you’ve suggested, so before I return her to her bibliographical grave, will have another listen. I hear a lot of leftover Hérodiade, to tell la verité!

        • fletcher

          Heureusement, it’s on the Tubes!

          I haven’t heard the Levine Cellini. I have the Davis and the Nelson (both very good) and an Ozawa with Bonisolli I never bother with. I’ve never been a Levine fan. His recordings are for some reason hard to come across digitally and so very few ever made it into my library. The only thing I have of his that I consider indispensable is the Vespri with Arroyo and Domingo, and maybe the Erwartung with Norman. The only Levine recording I want but don’t have is the Troyens with LHL, and he’s certainly not the main draw there.

          • Camille

            oh my god — you’ve thrown me another life=saving inter tube!!! Whoo Hoo! Don’t have to fork over that 100 clams after all! And I love the name “Germaine Bonnet”, almost as good as the shepherdess in the Monte Carlo Tannhauser, Mlle Ana?s Constans (!!!!!!!)

            His recordings of various works, (in the 40 years of Jimmy celebration series) including the aforementioned Cellini, plus Oedipus Rex, Pelléas, et al., have been selling for seven bucks or so for the last couple years, and that’s why I’ve scooped them up. The other night, only PARADE was left. Guessing all the others have passed by.

          • Camille

            Fletcherino--I listened to the whole thing today and I thank you for posting it for me, so that I might finally hear Monsieur Vanzo in a role I’ve always wanted to hear him in BUT—this recording is weak sauce, like a runny egg-free Hollandaise compared to the rich creamy Béarnaise of Monsieur Christophe’s that, well, that there is no comparison to. Especially unhappy for me was the squeaky Eboli and Germaine’s bonnet was a size too petite.

            It’s our favorite boy’s birthday today so I have to go post some BERRY-HOST!

    • Angela Saccosta

      Dearest Camille, Check out the Opera Rara website. They have been having half priced sales events and I recall that the Don Carlos was included in one of them. I’m not sure whether that performance remains the only one that includes the pages that Verdi omitted before the 1867 premiere and that were first heard in that BBC broadcast. You are right : Don Carlos remains Verdi’s greatest achievement, the last three masterpieces not withstanding. Don Carlos and Forza are for me the works in which Verdi finally exorcised the demons and the pain that had been with him since the deaths he had suffered 30 years earlier. I have more recordings of Forza than of any other opera. Dona nobis pacem,and Forza gives it.

      • Camille

        Angelo mio!

        How KIND of you to think of me and I am grateful for this information, to which I shall refer myself toot sweet!

        The recent Paris Opéra production included that music, as well, and was a revelation in so many respects, SO, if this old BBC broadcast also includes it, and what with those magnificent accompaniments they serve up along with the discs, it may be worth it for me to buy!

        What I find, however, most interesting here is your aperçu regarding the late masterpieces of Maestro Verdi; your idea expressed of him ‘finally exorcising his demons’. I have held fast a similar vague, inchoate kind of feeling about all this, always wondering if and when and HOW he was ever able to succeed in getting past his past. The kind of traumatic shock and loss he endured is something which even a happy and fortuitous success like the Nabucco not so long thereafter, could have hardly eradicated even though welcome, and could it not have seemed the cruelest irony that his wild successes came after his horrible losses to him, and was therefore bitter about taking chances, example of keeping Giuseppina Strepponi at arm’s length for so many years — well, admittedly, she was no saint, even if a victim herself.
        I don’t know enough to draw any conclusions and should likely refer myself to Julian Budden et al.

        Regarding his Forza, once I became acquainted with his original version (via the DVD from the Mariinsky Theatre), I have much preferred it over the revised one. For once, free of the scourge of the ever vigilant Italian censorship, he was able to allow free reign to his skepticism and misgivings about the corruption of the clergy, as well as his bitterness at the darkness of the inexorable, pitiless force of destiny, and how, try as one might, never be able to cheat one’s accumulated karmic debt.

        Yes, Dona nobis pace, in verità! We need it so badly in this world which only becomes darker and more occluded by every manner of misdeed and malefaction all the time. It is a depressing age in which to be an older person and I fear for younger people starting out their lives, without vibrant hopes for the future, and already wised=up so much, too much. So, in parting, I offer you my best wishes for this season and this little jest, and with my humble gratitude:

        “PaceM, paceM; PaceM, mio Dio, paceM mio Dio!”

        • Angela Saccosta

          Carina, Verdi exorcised the pain little by little by giving it to all those fathers who also lost children, Rigoletto, Giacomo(Joan’s Dad), Germont, Monfort, Foscari, Miller, et al. Then the great outburst from the daughter who caused her father’s death -- Leonora -- Pace, Pace, Mio Dio. That was Verdi’s great outburst for his own peace and it worked. All that remained for his own peace was to create the Grand Inquisitor, the incarnation of Verdi’s hatred for the Church. I think after that Verdi finally was able to live out his days in a more serene way.

          • Camille

            Yes, I’ve always looked at the Inquisitor as a very, very important personage in the cavalcade of characters in his world and think he is so much more a key to Don Carlo(s) than what is usually portrayed. In the recent Paris version his role was expanded in the death of Rodrigue, and it worked very well. One has to consider how utterly corrupt the clergy had become in those days to understand his hatred. With his Requiem, however, I feel he showed a much greater and nobler spirituality than most of the pious church music writers ever have come near expressing. Maybe along with the Missa Solemnis which may be comparable he reaches in comparable heights, well, excepting Bach. Nice to speak with you again, Angelo mio!

        • Angela Saccosta

          I agree with you too on the superiority of the 1862 Forza, and Opera Rara has the BBC performance with Martina and Kenneth Collins. It’s another superb performance and the third act is a stupendous creation that is unfortunately unsingable today. Maybe Jonas could get through it with a transposition of the final part. The tenor for whom that would have been a piece of cake was Franco, who to the best of my knowledge never sang the 1862 version.

          • Camille

            Noted, as that one did also interest me, being the only known alternative to the Mariinsky Theatre DVD, at least that I know of. As well for Arroyo, whom I imagine could have been wonderful in those days. Franco WAS a piece of cake!! haha!!

    • Bill

      Camille -- my favorite Verdi opera as well, in any version, truncated or complete.

      • Camille

        Hurray! We have a quorum now!

        Are you going to any of those Hansels over the Christmas season, and I suppose you’ve already been to a Flute or two or three. I heard Ms Müller the other night and found her not terribly lacking but just not very Mozartian, at least to my way of thinking about Mozart. There was no real line to her singing and that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think Mozart.

        Herzlichen Grüßen to you, too!

        • I have a ticket for Jancsi és Juliska (Hänsel und G.) at the Erkel in Budapest tomorrow night.

          • Camille

            Lucky you! I hope there are many, many sugarplums involved in the production, heheheheheeeeee and cackle!!!! Bon voyage!

            • Not sure those, whatever they may be, would be among a Hungarian kid’s stocking-fillers.

              I changed my profile pick again, thinking you’d quand même had enough of Bahram Gur. I now have a more recent shah.

            • Bill

              NPW-Paris Curious to hear your report regarding the production in Budapest as well as the singing. As the main old Opera House
              in Budapest has been closed this (and probably next) season for renovations almost all their performances are now at the Erkel and prices at the Erkel are traditionally far lower than those at the Opera House even for the same fare, singers and productions. I have found in Budapest in their newer productions they often make use of imaginative lighting to compensate for the fact they do not have the money for huge expensive sets say compared to the Met or Vienna etc.

            • I will publish a write-up on my blog. The question is when: I’m here to run a seminar so it’s unlikely I’ll have any free time before December 19. In brief, the production is set at the loading bay of a sweet factory, so the kids, who sort waste from the wheelie-bins, are contemporary. The acoustics and orchestra were magnificent. The acoustics didn’t strike so much the last time I was there, so perhaps I was in a specially sweet spot. The singing was of a high standard all round, and Hänsel was really excellent: Gabriella Balga. Zsolt Haja as the father was also very striking: a huge, clear voice.

            • Bill

              NPW-Paris Thanks for the brief report.
              The Hansel you saw I had seen as an excellent Dorabella -- Zsolt Haja I saw first
              in Debrecen in a smaller role in the Bartered Bride (sung in Hungarian) then in Budapest in a number of roles including Valentin -- a handsome figure with a voice exactly as you described it. I’ll go to at least one of the Hansel’s at the Met this month --

              The Erkel apparently was built as an opera house about 1911 and is larger than most European Opera houses with 2400 or so seats the number having been reduced from its original structure. It underwent many transitions over the years and for a period was a Kino (the sight lines from all seats are excellent) or a straight theater. I always found it to have excellent acoustics from all areas of the house -- (the main opera house also has wonderful acoustics). Janos Kovacs is a good conductor of Wagner and
              Strauss so should have been fine for Hansel.
              Glad you liked it and enjoy Budapest.

            • It would be hard not to enjoy Budapest. But I’m off now for 2 nights in Pécs.

            • Bill

              NPW-Paris Pecs has a lovely (and not small) opera house which presents
              some operas each season, more operettas and plays. On Dec 9th they had the Kalman
              operetta “Countess Maritza” but nothing in the next days with music until “the Sound of Music” and Die Fledermaus. But they do operas such as Tosca, Faust, most of the Mozart operas etc. Ticket prices are quite low (the last time I was there
              about $ 5 for the front row parterre.) The performance standard is about the same as any provincial opera house in Germany --
              full orchestra, traditional sets, good singers
              (some from Budapest). Have fun

            • This is work. Not even sure I’ll see Pécs. Am on the way to a biomass-fuelled power plant. Later meet the mayor then a tobacco factory (but not Carmen).

            • Report (Hänsel und G.) now published.

            • Camille

              Without my glasses on you kind of look like Giuseppe Verdi now, which is entirely àpropos here, of course!

              You don’t know what Twinkies are!??? You are lucky not to know. They are an awful American junk food with, further, a notorious reputation as part of a defense in an infamous murder trial. “Gee, I ate too many Twinkies and couldn’t help it if I shot the Mayor!”

              I love me some marzipan, the real echt kosher kind, so have a ball on me, too! I’ll never have enough of Bahram Gur, neither, je l’aime! Have fun with H&G and let us know if the Witch and Mutti are the same singer--I always like it when they are.

            • They weren’t.

    • QueenAnne Guido

      I rise to express my Endless Lurve for Donnie C.

      The canvas of characters feel accounted for and not just through a stand alone ‘big aria’. It’s one of the few times I feel that the political realm and the personal realm actually meld at all levels, as opposed to being a convenient plot point.

      And he’s busting heads on the Church. The Angelic voice -- you really don’t get a moment like that anywhere else in Verdi -- is there to deliver a message. It’s striking because it’s so out of character for Verdi. He follows it up with almost fifteen minutes of dark turning darker: the Grand Inquisitor-King Phillip scene. The church demands blood. Joe Green knew what he was doing.

      It starts in a gloomy place, it gets gloomier.

      I’ve got a bootleg recording that sez “Bolshoi 1961” and I don’t know a thing about it other then it makes me swoon to hear this gloomy thing by performers who can gloom with the best of them

      • ChesterS

        I think it’s the voce dal cielo that knocks Don Carlos to 2nd place for me, below Trovatore, in which the world is SO dark, barely illuminated by the flickering fires or the pale moon.

        (Not sure why all my recent comments have been marked as spam? Help!)

        • QueenAnne Guido

          They are such different creations -- each beautiful nonetheless. With Trovatore he’s not aiming at larger targets (such as the Catholic Church). And that’s juts fine, as Trovatore is perfect as it is.

      • Camille

        I very much feel In accordance with what you have expressed regarding the ‘political and personal realm melding’, as, for me, he succeeds in Don Carlo in a way he doesn’t in Aïda.

        This all reminds me, Seattle Opera did a French version about 20-25 years ago, did they not? I remember hearing a portion on the radio once, it was Vaness (“Sesttle’s Own Diva”, who sang the Élisabeth but do not recall rest of the cast. I think it was a success.

        • QueenAnne Guido

          It was. Vinson Cole

          • Camille

            O I remember him but don’t remember where and how? Roméo et Juliette with that lady who sang Marilyn later on—La Gamberoni I believe—who went on to study at Baruch College something in accounting or business or something — and then again I heard him in Brooklyn in La Damnation de Faust in an interesting production with Spano. Where else? He was very popular at Seatte. Did he sing those Orphées? I think I saw Gran Wilson? Or did I. I certainly remember Morris in his widow’s weeds careening and flailing about like a mad thing!!

            Now I am wondering who the hell was in that War and Peace that Spritely so adventurously put on? I can’t remember anything but the malachite columns which SJ went on and ON about on King-FM. And the orgy at the end of Die Meistersinger, which really made a tremendous impression upon me. Summer 1989, and my first sighting of my belovèd Big Ben, and in a knight’s skirt, to boot!

            Good ol’ daze. Where they done gone?

            • QueenAnne Guido

              Oh dear, a crush of memories flood forward.

              Vinnie D was sublime in the Orphée. (While I am a fan of Mr. Morris, I was *not* a fan of his ‘phone it in, did the check clear?’ work on the production. Maddening hack job.) Gamberoni?! That’s some recall! I have very fond memories of Mr. Cole in those works as he didn’t push a dang thing. In those whiz bang days of a voice having only two sizes (Big and BIGGEST) it was treat to get some finesse over hot tricks. I always looked forward to Mr. Cole. His Romeo was especially winsome.

              WARPED PEACE was a cast imported in from the Soviet Empire -- visa nightmares and all, I’m told. It was part of a larger arts exchange that was a bust. I will never warm to the charms of that German composer you referenced (I hear he made a name for himself just the same) but Mr. Heppner brought mountains of charm to both Meistersinger and Lohengrin. He made them irresistible. God knows those works could use some g’dang charm. A young BH had considerable g’dang charm.

              SO is mostly miss and rarely a hit. (Today its a charnel house for nuance and a palace for all things garrish.) So we must stop. I was never a SJ devotee but the current dude makes me yearn for the Benny Hill antics of SJ’s predecessor.

            • Camille

              “Get a head with Salome!”

              Remember? The bumper sticker that made headlines everywhere, but it worked! It got a bunch of recalcitrant hayseeds into something called an opera house for the first time.

              Yeah, Mr Ross was a trip and then some, but he was the motor that turned that machine. Witthout him I doubt it would have ever taken root as he was The Gambler they needed to make it work. And he won, for a time.

              Buona notte, Caro Guido di Regina Anna!

      • Camille

        “It starts in a gloomy place, it gets gloomier.”

        Yes! That’s what all the fun’s about!!!

        I guess Verdi had a vodka hangover from his Forza daze at the Mariinsky.

  • Christian Ocier

    To me, the 1977 Milan performance with Abbado achieved the finest combination of cast, production, and conductor ever mounted for this great opera. My only slight reservation--and it is a slight one--is directed at Obraztsova’s Eboli. Had Cossotto been brought in for this production, I think this would have become THE definitive Don Carlo.

    • Camille

      Why is that? Does Obraztsova rasp a lot or is she just overpoweringly loud, or what? She can be enormously impactful and entertaining, no matter what she is up to and was a colorful character, but some of the time she sounds like a hurricane blowing through town.

      • Christian Ocier

        Yes, she possesses an eighteen wheeler truck voice. I’m certain that she was an exciting actress, but Cossotto’s voice exhibited so much color and bronzen beauty (really, she was the last of the great Italian mezzos) that I would have preferred her in the part. She also had an ease with coloratura that made her a delight to listen to. Obraztsova to me resembles some of my reservations about Christine Goerke--both of whom project large voices, but do not paint their voices with the color palette of other peers in their period. They are magnificent to see in the house, but at the end of the day I want a nuanced play on the role.

        • Camille

          choking through my laughter as am eating lunch, and at the thought of that Mack truck of a voice. only saw her as sweet little virginal Adalgisa(!) if you can imagine that, but she somehow convinced me and enjoyed her very much. I do not have any recollection of any vocal difficulties during those formidable duets, however it was an Adalgisa that could easily have taken down Norma in a fisticuffs fight. Their Pollione (forgot who) was no match for either of them!

          • Christian Ocier

            Her Adalgisa would have been crowned supreme leader of the Druids!

            Another similar singer, but with more artistry: George Gorr.

            • Camille

              Righto, she woulda run Norma outta town and taken over the temple with Pollione as her attendant.

              Gorr is/was a formidable singer and a real presence well into her sixties. She, too, could be a hurricane!!!

            • Christian Ocier

              On another note: I do think Obraztsova, along with Baltsa and non-Italian singers of that period, foreshadowed our current casting dilemma in the mainstream Italian repertory. Already at the time, Elena was beginning to take over the Verdi mezzo repertory, while Cossotto was either at her prime or slightly past it in her career. No other Italian mezzo, except for Luciana D’Intino (who arguably didn’t leave as memorable of an impression in this rep) was able to fill that void. Now, we have singers like Gubanova, Prudenskaya, and Smirnova--the first two are exceptional. However, as much as I enjoy their artistry I still find that their voices lack that special, “Italianate” quality Cossotto, Barbieri, and Simionato brought to their singing. I don’t think this particular problem has been confined to the mezzo repertory--nearly all the soloists in Italian opera today are taken by Eastern European voices. I wonder what exactly happened in the 70s and 80s to precipitate our current vocal dearth?

            • Camille

              What happened?
              That is an enormous and many-headed hydra and too vast and complex a subject for one to even dare contemplate here.

              Suffice it to say that, after-around-about-and-beginning in 1980, things began to change; by 1990 they had begun to change a lot; and since the year 2000, let’s just say anything goes.

              That’s putting into a sentence what is rightly a well-supported and researched doctoral dissertation, so take it with a grain of salt along with those dates being approximate at best.

              One exempli gratia which springs to mind—in the eighties in Italy a lot of Bulgarian singers got gigs and why? Because they gave most of their fees to the managers, just for the opportunity of singing in the West. The old national schools of singing died out and the international IPA school of singing became established. Air travel became more common starting at least in the fifties and revving up more in the sixties. Breakdown of the middle class mores which dictated the needs of opera on Sunday night TV programs. YAP that churn out officeworker singers devoid of any individuality.

              Just a million and one things. When last in Italy I asked a friend about the Ricordi stores and he told me there was one left in Rome. Ricordi. Unthinkable a couple decades before.

            • Anton VonWebern

              Also factor in the retirement or death of a number of important voice teachers around the 80s-early 90s. The next generation of teachers wasn’t up to Lauri-Volpi’s standards.

            • Christian Ocier

              Just a reminder of happier times (scroll down the comments section):

          • Niel Rishoi

            I heard a tape of Obraztsova as Adalgisa fia punita a long time ago…it was very…Amnerisy.

            • Camille

              Yes she was! But she saved the night that night and kept La Shirl from committing Hara kiri on herself and the kids, too. A very commanding presence, indeed.

            • southerndoc1

              Don’t forget the one-off of Galvany and Obraztsova -- history is made at night.

            • Camille

              That is like having King Kong go up against Godzilla.

              A night for the ages, to be sure and how I would have loved to have been there!

        • Niel Rishoi

          Agreed about Flo Cossotto. Towering portrayal, sumptuous, huge tone. She was a bit young for her commercial recording (De Fabriitis?), but she sang it with a new, refined standard: she follows the score conscientiously, noting the markings, esp in the canzone de velo, and displayed unusual sensitivity, not just blasting her way through.

          • fletcher

            You mean the second Santini?

            • Niel Rishoi

              Yes, that’s the one. And that WAS a sexy, boyish Cherubino, an amazing assumption. She could sing very “slender” of tone and not lose the body, nor did it turn white.

          • Christian Ocier

            She was indeed one of the most musical singers in that rep--as evidenced in her recordings of Trovatore, Aida, Macbeth, and the aforementioned Santini Don Carlo. I can think of later examples (broadcasts) where her more dramatically mature Eboli can be sampled. A Salzburg recording with Karajan comes to mind, where she shared the role with Baltsa and Ludwig (possibly my least favorite Ludwig performance--it’s just wrong for the voice). Another Karajan partnership--the Scala Requiem--showcases her vocal and musical gifts at their very finest. To me, it was unimaginable that this great singer would be the last great Italianate exponent of that fach. Today, there are hardly any singers who strike me as truly great Eboli’s in the Italian tradition (even though there exist many wonderful ones like Gubanova). A quick scope of the role’s performances in the last three years reveal a largely Russian/Eastern European roster.

            • Niel Rishoi

              And here she is singing Ulrica -- *the* most solid, secure, steady, and chocolaty-toned crystal ball reader ever. Most of the Ulricas are witchy-pitchy, but here you get perfect contralto and soprano tones all in one:

            • Niel Rishoi

              And her 1966 “Inneggiamo” -- luscious, creamy, firm-tone, in my opinion the finest Santuzza:

            • Niel Rishoi
            • Christian Ocier

              Agree with you on all counts on all excerpts. I almost forgot about her Santuzza with Karajan--easily my favorite recording of the opera. Bergonzi is a fine, if somewhat milder Turiddu, something like an Italian Robert Dean Smith. Her voice was just so rich with overtones, unlike many of the singers taking on her roles today. Let us not forget her gorgeous Adalgisa’s or her La Favorita’s! Blythe was lauded for her Ulricas at the Met, but I found the voice too one dimensional and truckish for many of her roles. You don’t necessarily have to be Italian either to have all that color--Bumbry and Verrett come to mind as fine examples of mezzos with interesting voices. But for Verdi, Cossotto was queen. If Simionato was the Flagstad of her each, then Cossotto was the Leider. How I wish we have another singer like her today.

            • Niel Rishoi

              Too, I think she is not remembered or referenced nearly enough now. She belongs in the pantheon of the great artists.

            • Porgy Amor

              I think Cossotto is more likely to get her due today than she was when I first was listening to her. At that point, around the turn of the millennium, she was caught in the Bermuda Triangle. There were still a lot of older people around who were all “Oh, but I saw Simionato and Stignani and she couldn’t compare.” There were also lingering bad feelings within the business over personal qualities she may have had. (Ira Siff had a lot of trouble getting anyone to say much about her on the record for an Opera News profile ten years ago. Scotto finally stepped up to the plate.) Finally, singers’ reputations often go into eclipse in the 10 or 15 years after they stop, because the lesser performances of the late years are still fresh in everyone’s ears. Today, for example, if you say the name Natalie Dessay or Deborah Voigt, people will probably say negative things. Maybe in the fullness of time, it will be different; the best will be remembered and the worst forgiven.

              But my sense is that now Cossotto is in that pantheon, certainly one of the greats that we can hear on recordings in her signature roles. I always see her name in the “great Italian mezzo” litany. She is getting one of those Met Opera Guild awards in the spring, which are bestowed on retired greats along with still-active artists (so they aren’t exactly “lifetime achievement,” but…). Coincidentally, the ceremony will be held on her 83rd birthday.

            • Niel Rishoi

              Very perceptive, and you are right. She was a difficult, insecure colleague, supposedly very competitive. But I think she totally did not deserve a reputation as The Woman Who Was Mean To Callas in her last Normas. I frankly couldn’t hear any evidence at all to that effect. What I heard was Callas running out of steam at a few points.

            • The reputation she did deserve was The Woman who tried to get her Claque to upstage Leontyne Price’s Farewell. That display was downright pathetic.

            • Camille

              Would you mind recounting the particulars of that situation as I somehow missed out on all that, or maybe I just didn’t pay any attention to anything but Leontyne in that great farewell of hers. Did Cossotto actually organize a Claque? Seems very insecure more than anything else, but do tell, if you feel like it. I don’t often relish dirt but this one sounds very funny in aspects.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Cami, I got lost with all these “Don Carlo(s)” threads and comments (plus dealing with trying to sort out three “new” “Ring” operas and a “Chénier”) so I am not sure what would help answer your questions, but I have and would be happy to share (with you or anyone else) the video of the Paris production (the audio has been on my Mixcloud site since it was broadcast). I need an e-mail adress to which it can be sent, and will use a free service called WeTransfer to send the 1.7GB file, which then has to be downloaded once you receive it. Contact me at and give me an e-mail address at which you can receive the file (this applies to anyone else who is interested in having it).

            • I have no definitive proof but I’m comfortable in my assertion. Cossotto was famous for paying a claque to applaud her. And when you watch the ovations (the video of which I can’t find on YT but it used to be there) and the dozens of bouquets being tossed on the stage during Cossotto’s solo bow, it’s hard not to believe that there was a well-paid claque in attendance. To quote our Porgy Amor, Cossotto acts like it’s *her* farewell.

            • Camille

              Oh yes, I vaguely recall a very little bit of her bows but I was so overwhelmed at Price’s goodbyes I didn’t focus on Flo. That is a really sad reflection on her and I would like to think it wasn’t prompted by envy or malice but just ignorant primdonna egotism.

              Also, probably Flo had HAD to deal with the claques in Italy as a matter of course and survival, so perhaps as far as she was concerned she was doing what was necessary.

              Or maybe this theory is totally full of it and she really WAS being Princess Amneris in real life. I remeber those Youtubes but never watched them.

              Anyway, Leontyne had the most touching and loving farewell and have never forgotten how beautiful she looked and sang. Flo, for whatever her formidability did not have that type of beauty, not even close.

            • Camille

              In the archives of parterre box there is an article by Our Own Enzo Bordello detailing his experiences with both Fiorenza Cossotto and her husband, Ivo Vinco, when they sang in la Nouvelle Orléans, many years ago.

              Most likely I read it in that eternal delight, “Où va la jeune Andouille?”, a segment I have returned to countless times over the years. I’ve forgotten which number of parterre box it is but a search is easy enough.

            • southerndoc1

              A thoroughly unpleasant little fire-plug of a woman, or something to that effect. Also, the only diva who liked it when the New Orleans make-up artists made her look like a Mardi Gras drag queen!


            • Camille

              Or, as they would say in The Big Easy,

              “Immortelle”. Yaas, ma’am.

            • Christian Ocier

              All being said, these two are likely the finest Verdi mezzos you will find on the world’s stages today. And I would wager than Gubanova, for her versatility (her Wagner is quite amazing too) and musicality, will likely rank among history’s finest singers in the mezzo repertory.



            • Armerjacquino

              Having seen Rachvelishvili as Azucena last year I’m in no doubt that she’s the finest Verdi mezzo currently singing, and probably the best I’ve ever seen/heard live.

              Cossotto had a truly extraordinary voice, but I’d much rather hear her than watch her- it’s not so much that she’s disconnected from acting as that she seems to disdain the whole idea. Had I been around in her prime I think it’s Verrett I would have gravitated towards for those parts.

            • CKurwenal

              Agreed re Rachvelishvili, an absolutely extraordinary singer, in any age.

              On Cossotto, of course I agree that the voice was exceptional but I find it rather brassily, even crassly produced on the stuff I’ve heard. I don’t think she was any subtler than Obraztsova, it seems to me that Cossotto was just a bit less well endowed vocally in terms of resonance, complexity of colour and refulgence, so was less likely to come across as de trop whenever singing above a mezzo forte. I agree with ArmerJ that Verrett is probably the best combination when it comes to timbre and style, from that era, as well as in terms of acting.

            • Camille

              Very, very wise words here, CK. I quite agree with all that you have to say, even if never having heard Cossotto live, I did hear the Big O. And Mrs Verrett was something else. To my mind one of the only true falcons around.

              It’s very exciting to hear these things about Rachvelishvili you guys state, as she will soon be our Azucena here and am looking forward to hearing her, even if submitting to the conducting of Armiliato once more. Until now I’ve heard her only on a PBS broadcast of Prince Igor, but her singing was just delectable, not only a beautiful voice but a very very beautiful manner of singing the Konchakovna, or whatever that lady is called. She should burn the house down as Azucena, and I am awaiting it.

            • I think Anita Rachvelishvili is a singer I’d travel to hear. But for the time being I’ve been able to see her here in Paris -- and next year if all goes well I’ll see her as Azucena too.

            • Nelly della Vittoria

              Re: Cossotto, well, the occasional bluster and chronic flatting at the top in later years are, unfortunately, on the record along with all her better work, but the best of it shows real fleetness, acuity, stylistic certainty. Someone shared her deft and accurate Barbiere Rosina a while back, but I also think of the great restraint with which she sang Neris’ aria in Italian on more than one occasion (though she must almost always have been luxury casting):

            • southerndoc1

              Sometime in the mid seventies, the ratio of buzz-saw to beauty in Cossotto’s tone became too great for me; the acting, when it appeared was of the Theda Bara school -- still have nightmares of her pantomime during the Cav prelude at CG.

              The Trionfi appendix on the Macbeth set is useful if you want to experience what it is like to have an ice pick jammed through your eardrum into your brain.

              Earlier, really great, as in the excerpts posted above.

            • Camille

              Your description of that ice pick is apt and as it led me to listening into her rendition of that aria yesterday to once more reconsider it, I would have to agree and concur with you, albeit I do think that aria/cabaletta/whatever is awful, no matter who sings it.

              Curiosity provoked, I did go on to listen to a few others sings it, as the ice pick doesn’t do that much damage since it’s short, and once again encountered the great Rita Hunter’s take on it and which was fine, but ultimately stopped my search at the portals of Hungarian diva (surely Our Own Bill has the full dossier) Klára Kolonits’ quite colorful and amazing rendition which is on Youtube. I’ll go import it later on as now I am listening, AGAIN, to Don Carly. She looks to me somewhat a little like Leonie Rysanek, to boot, to add to the fun!!!

            • agh1

              I was very fortunate to see many performances of the famous 1958 ROH Visconti production of Don Carlo which quickly became a favourite opera of mine. The Eboli’s included Barbieri, Cossotto, Gorr, Bumbry and Verrett.- all having their particular virtues. However, I felt Barbieri and Gorr were happier in parts which demanded less refinement (so, e.g. Barbieri was stupendous as Azucena). Cossotto made a great impression when she sang the part in 1963. Philip Hope-Wallace descibed her ‘O don fatale’ as “not exactly refined in tone or bound with delicate legato, but unquestionably the show-stopper the public wanted: a gorgeous noise, like a brass band going by.”..I thought Bumbry, whom I heard next, was a better, more refined Eboli, but then, in 1968, came Verrett, who, to me, was the finest of them all in the part, demonstrating all the virtues to which CKurwenal refers.

            • Porgy Amor

              Cocky, if you don’t think Cossotto was subtler than Obraztsova, and find her voice brassily and crassly produced, it makes me think perhaps you have mostly heard her work past a certain date. To me that’s like saying that Verrett was good, but the respiratory problems and frequent cracks limit one’s enjoyment. These singers, in both cases, made their names with singing that did not have those drawbacks. I hear nothing crass about Cossotto’s Cherubino for Giulini, or her Neris on the Gardelli set with Jones, or her Santuzza and Verdi Requiem for Karajan (all from the 1960s).

            • Cocky: I love Obraztsova and find her a thrilling singer. She had an extraordinary voice and sang the hell out of everything that came her way. I don’t mind the fact that she brought the chest voice up too high like some do. And I can forgive her lack of subtlety because she was so unique and there are plenty of other great mezzos (including her contemporaries) who gave more complete, nuanced musical performances.

              I say all of that because I think Cossotto (whose vocal endowment was equally impressive in my view) was by far the more musical singer with the better schooled voice.

              Like Porgy, I wonder if you’ve mainly heard her later work.

              If you have a chance, get your hands on the Italian Khovanshchina (link below). I truly think you’d love her in it.


            • Christian Ocier

              I didn’t realize she had gravitated toward Verdi repertory. She’s a marvelous singer! Will listen now.

            • Christian Ocier

              Did Kunde somehow acquire a second lease for his voice? It sounds so Italianate and beautiful! And big!

          • Porgy Amor

            Santini (one of my least favorites of the Italian opera conductors of that period) conducted the commercial Don Carlo that had Cossotto’s Eboli. It was his second set of the opera. His first one had Nicolai in the relevant role.

            Cossotto is, of course, on some good live recordings. I like one from Vienna, 1968, with Jurinac, Cossotto, Domingo, Sereni, Siepi, and Vinco. Rysanek is the Heavenly Voice. Lotte, that is! Then, of course, shortly thereafter there was the Verona one with Caballé, Domingo, and Cappuccilli, but the person making the recording is so prominent that he’s almost another principal.

          • Damianjb1

            In regards to Cossotto and the Verdi Requiem. In the La Scala DVD with Karajan I’m always struck by how she begins every phrase dead centre on the note. Every time without fail.

  • bertrand simon

    Dear Christopher, i am discovering Trove Thursday and very excited . As cast and conductor are not always available, have you a place where we could learn more . Sometimes i can guess who is singing but not everytime !

    • CCorwinNYC

      Hi Bertrand. If you’re accessing past “Trove Thursday” postings via iTunes or the RSS reader you won’t get the entire entry which always includes complete casting information, etc. I suggest you might scan through the weekly entries via the #tag

      or via my archive which also includes reviews

      Both are in reverse chronological order of posting. Hope this helps.

  • Camille

    Mr Christopher, thus far Liccioni and Sarroca are just sounding FAB in this version!! I am in CIELO! She doesn’t even flat those ejaculatory high Bs!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Que vive la France!!!!

  • bertrand simon

    Dear Christopher, with that ORTF version we can hear to what point Don Carlos has always been a french opera, even in this Modena version retranslated in french (Verdi worked at all steps on a french text) . For some next Trove Thursday may i suggest some Wagner, rare here, and for exemple i am thinking to a Munich Tristan 27/7/1980 Sawallisch Behrens Minton Wenkoff Nimsgern Moll .

    • PCally

      You seem nice

    • CCorwinNYC

      Two Wagner works scheduled in the early new year, but no plans for any more Behrens beyond the Rusalka already posted.

      • bertrand simon

        May i suggest an other title, rather difficult to find : Der Fliegende Holländer with Crespin from Met 1968 ,

        • Camille

          Yes, I would like to second this request as have always been quite curious as to how the performance went after having read about how it all came about in Mme Crespin’s excellent autobiography. I believe she may have still had the requisite acuti, all those Bs!, for the role at that time, or je l’espère!

          • bertrand simon

            Elle est en glorieuse voix et surtout elle est une des très rares que je connaisse à suggérer le dérangement de Senta . Ce n’est pas un broadcast officiel du Met mais le son est assez bon .

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      Mr. Simon -- while not Wagner, I think you may enjoy this:

      I also recently posted a rather spectacular Act I of “Die Walküre” from a Tokyo concert in October with Klaus Florian Vogt, Elena Pankratova, Georg Zeppenfeld, and Kirill Petrenko conducting:

      • bertrand simon

        Dear Marianne, i follow you since about one year with great interest . That Act I of Walküre i listened immediatly, first of all for Petrenko . Thanks again for all those treasures .

      • bertrand simon

        Very interesting to hear this Salome live . Karajan was such a perfectionist that the differences with the studio are thin but as many conductors the stage gives something more and at last better . I remember listening to this on France Musique 40 years ago .

      • bertrand simon

        I had bad experiences with Facebook so i ignore them but if there is an other way to count as your follower please let me know .

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Since I don’t do Facebook (or Twitter or any of that stuff), to the best of my knowledge if you just click on “Follow” on my Mixcloud page all that will do is send you an automatic update by e-mail whenever I add a new title. It is quite separate from any links to Facebook. This is assuming that you already have joined Mixcloud and have a profile (to which you can add as much or as little as you choose).

          On a Wagnerian note, I have been trying to decide whether or not to post the “new” “Ring-Trilogie” commissioned by Theater an der Wien (three long operas entitled “Hagen,” Siegfried,” and “Brünnhilde” to be played on consecutive nights, which premiered beginning on 01 December). I shall probably post them all at once tomorrow night after the broadcast of “Brünnhilde.” If you are curious, go to the Web site for Theater an der Wien (which offers an English option) and scroll down to the option for “Die Ring-Trilogie” and there is a fairly long essay explaining/justifying the project:

          • bertrand simon

            Yes i have already listened the beginning of that Trilogie on ORF .

  • Camille

    I cannot EXPRESS my thanks for this Don Carlos en français, as it is the Don Carlos, with or without all the necessary music, which I have been rabidly imagining for years and such a relief to finally be able to hear. Really, despite all the additions and the starry cast and conductor, do not know if I’ll have the courage to listen to the other one for what contentment this one has given to me. Each soloist was excellent, and only a note or two flew astray every once in a great while. A great satisfaction and ALL HAIL THE PIRATE KING!

  • QueenAnne Guido

    Mr. Corwin, thank you for these. I look forward to spending some time with them this weekend. Cheers!

  • Christopher: Thank you for this. I listened to the first couple of hours of the Don Carlo today.

    I had no idea that this version of the score existed. We’ve all heard the five-act Italian version which has been standard at the Met for decades. But I’ve never heard all the “extra” music in the Italian version. I thought those bits could only be heard in French versions. And I never imagined hearing the quiet ending in an Italian version.

    In this recording, Abbado has his cake and eats it too. We get the gorgeous prelude to the garden scene before we get the jaunty music of the veil-switching scene.

    Did Obraztsova have a claque or was the crowd just really excited for the opportunity to hear her? She’s applauded upon her entrance and then receives a most disproportionate ovation after the Veil Song. I mean I love me some Elena but…

    • Armerjacquino

      I don’t know the answer to your final question when it comes to these Scala performances but I know that Obraztsova could drive a crowd wild. I have a pirate of the 1976 Met AIDA with Hunter and Bergonzi and was once listening to it while travelling on a tube so crowded I couldn’t reach into my pockets to change the track- so ended up listening to the applause after EO’s judgement scene for THREE STOPS.